Who has been on the receiving end of a conversation with someone who has a powerful pose? A pose that is strong and exudes confidence? Or on the other side you are trying to speak to someone who acts as the timid mouse? Both of these ‘stances’ have a different affect on how we interact with each other.
We already know that body language has an affect on how we engage with others. We are now learning that the way we hold ourselves has a profound impact on the way we feel about ourselves. Yes, body language may also change how we see ourselves.
Amy Cuddy, an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, has done some remarkably compelling research on the impact of our body language on ourselves. Body language includes everything from eye contact (direct, averting, on and off), body positioning (slouching, sitting up straight, standing versus sitting, where you place your hands), proximity of the other person (close or far away, higher or lower) and listening (actively or passively).
Our non-verbal cues govern how we feel about ourselves.
We know our minds change our behaviours. Is it also possible for our bodies to change our minds and then in turn our behaviours? Cuddy says it is. How you hold yourself can affect how you feel about yourself.
When powerful leaders, men and women, with powerful poses, take charge they have high levels of testosterone and secrete low levels of cortisol (our stress reactor). Cuddy says that powerful poses can really change how you feel about yourself. We can use this when we are lacking confidence or scared stiff before a speaking engagement, job interview, important pitch, difficult meeting or, of course, one of those tough conversations.
Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. It’s about configuring your brain to cope in those situations by using your physical demeanour to then influence your mind and therefore your behaviours. It’s good to know that:
- our bodies change our minds
- our minds change our behaviours
- our behaviours change our outcomes.
So, try a power pose! Wonder Woman or Superman. Hold yourself with grace and authority like President Obama or Beyoncé.
Before your next conversation, find a space and expand. Make yourself big for at least two minutes and then observe how this changes the way you feel and helps to steady your nerves. This exercise will lead to a noticeable change in the way others interact with you as well.
To learn more about this and other things that make conversations remarkable get yourself a copy of Fixing Feedback.